Thursday, March 12, 2009

Great Read-Aloud Books for Boys

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienI've always felt rather guilty that I'm not so good at getting down and playing with my children. I don't play Legos or dress up or wrestle or things like that (that's Andrew's specialty) but I do love reading to them and I'm really hoping that that makes up for some of my less-admirable mom qualities when all is said and done and the votes are counted.

Last week I wrote about encouraging your child to read. Spencer (12) hit a difficult age where suddenly he wasn't reading as much as he used to. He'd made his way through Harry Potter and the rest of the fantasy hangers-on but had hit a wall. What to do next? Well he did nothing and for some reason I wasn't really paying attention.

But when I finally realized the situation I decided to reintroduce him to good books--particularly some good writing--because he's getting to the point where his language skills and communication skills need to be sharpened (that's been a struggling point in school for him lately--reading comprehension) and he needs to get a more adult dose of the English language.

So this week I'm writing about the books I've been introducing into David's and Spencer's diets just like a fine dish of fruit or veggies and even more wonderful.

First Spencer and I read The Lord of the Rings (which took us about ten years to get through) then David and I recently finished The Hobbit (much easier) and we're about to finish our latest read, Treasure Island, which I expect to wrap up by the time this post goes to press (knock on wood). You should hear my Long John Silver voice. It's amazing I tell you. The boys love it though he does sound rather like a weeny in my feminine pirate drawl.

If some of these seem like too much for your child you might consider getting the book in an abridged-for-children format. Many of them are available as Illustrated Classics which will at least introduce a bit of the work to them at an easier level.

1. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. I'm going to read this one next then follow up with Huckleberry Finn which is even meatier. Tom's adventures really ought to appeal to my boys and the way he gets away with things and weaves in and out of trouble out to please them (though it's really going to tax my dialect abilities). What makes these books wonderful is not only how the boys will relate to the main characters but there's no romance (they hate that) and as they're written from a boy's perspective the language is simple and straightforward. Easy to understand though there are deeper themes to discuss.

2. Tales of Mystery and Suspense by Edgard Allan Poe. Short stories are extra great for reading aloud because:

a) They can be read in one sitting.
b) The writing is usually better because the language is distilled to its essence.

The Telltale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, the Mask of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum--they're going to love the horror and suspense of it all and if I can "civilize" my boys while still letting them enjoy the kind of things boys usually enjoy then all the better.

If they like those then maybe we'll try The Fall of the House of Usher though I never liked The Murders in the Rue Morgue. An orangutan??? Really??? That is so not scary it's ridiculous.

3. Grimm's Fairy Tales. Speaking of scary stuff they don't call these "grim" for nothing. Have you read the original tales? They are so far off of the Disney versions they're hardly the same stories. What I find interesting about these tales too is that as I understand it they were written as a reflection of the culture in Germany at that time. To justify the good and punish the bad, to warn children of life's dangers and help people cope with the inexplicable.

Sounds good to me but they're also fun to read. Once the boys realize we're not talking singing forest critters and pink princesses I think they'll enjoy them quite a bit. Sometimes I wonder if our society does Disney-fy everything as an attempt to sanitize the life out of things. But that's another post . . .

Ivanhoe by Walter Scott4. Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. This is the most readable of Scott's historical novels but seriously? What's not to like about knights and castles and fair maidens? It's a little heavy on the romance but I think I can convince them to swallow it if I make the sword fights really, really exciting. There are other books about knights--The Once and Future King or The Idylls of the King by Tennyson, but they're not nearly as age-appropriate. I found T.H. White's novel quite boring myself so I don't think I could bring myself to read it to the boys.

5. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. While David Copperfield or Bleak House are really better novels I think this one about an orphan boy will appeal the most. The sense of right and wrong is so strong in this classic that I can just imagine how my boys will respond to Oliver's plight. A good story to make them feel lucky and educate them about what other children have had to live with but also a "good triumphing over evil" story. I got them into A Christmas Carol over Christmas which they they tolerated that so I think after a few others on the list they'd be ready to tackle this one. "Please, sir, I'd like some more."

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne6. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne. David has already mentioned that he'd like to read this one (thank you Hollywood for the help there) and Verne has so many great adventure stories to chose from: 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, Around the World in 80 Days and The Mysterious Island to name a few. Of all Verne's novels though I think this one conflicts the least with technology.

I can just picture trying to read Around the World in 80 Days to Spencer. He's sure to say, "What's the big deal? We can get around the world in 80 hours!" Ditto on the submarine thing so even though the center of the earth scenario seems highly improbable I think it has the best chance of flying with my little 21st-century techies.

7. The Sea Hawk by Raphael Sabatini. I read this myself a couple years ago. It's about a nobleman who gets kidnapped and sold into slavery but who becomes a pirate and yada yada yada . . . it's terrific. A bit heavy on the romance but really, really a fun read. I happened to mention it to the kids as I was driving them to school in the morning until every morning they asked me "So what happened next?"

I've got this on order from Alibris.com and hope it gets here soon. Sabatini has scads of great adventures stories: Bellarion, Captain Blood, Scaramouche. I think they'd also like Captain Blood which is another knight-turned-pirate story guaranteed to please, the others wouldn't be face paced enough for them.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen8. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. Paulsen's books aren't particularly difficult or challenging from a vocabulary standpoint but sometimes that's not all that can be learned from a book. Hatchet and it's sequels are about a boy who learns to survive in the wilderness after a plane crash leaves him alone. It's a bit of a coming-of-age book that has enough Man v. Wild graphic details to keep the boys listening (sheep's eyeball anyone?) but what appeals to me is the more adult-theme of the book. Children being called on to do extraordinary things--that's going to appeal to my sons and appeal to me as a parent.

9. Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This is one I actually haven't read myself but I've heard it's different from what you'd expect and quite a page-turner. Though I'm sure "page turner" can be highly subjective. I'm curious to give it a try and see if it lives up to the expectations. I have heard, however, that Tarzan is the fictional character most frequently made into movies. Or in other words, there have been more movies made about Tarzan than any other character that was previously in a book. Interesting. I think I would have said Dracula if I'd had to guess but Tarzan makes sense too.

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker. Which brings me to number 9. Have you read Dracula? Okay it's seriously about the scariest thing out there. Stephen King thinks he's scary and while I'd admit that possessed Cadillacs, prom queens gone wild and buried UFOs are a little odd they really can't compare to a MONSTER THAT SUCKS OUT YOUR BLOOD TO LEAVE YOU UNDEAD. That, my friends, is what real scare is about. Not only is it scary but if you start analyzing it as a Victorian work there are so many metaphors and so much imagery it starts leaking out the pages.

But for a story that will scare two boys I know this one will do.

The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson11. The Master of Ballantrae by Robert Louis Stevenson. Another historical swashbuckler that they ought to enjoy. They've liked Treasure Island though the only thing I'm worried about is having to do accents again. I'm not so good at accents. My Scotch accent is absolutely an abonimation--more like Bob Dylan drunk than anything remotely Scottish so I'll be pretty lame at it. Maybe all the practice will do me good--I do a fair Irish accent. Why is Scottish so much harder to duplicate?

I like this one better than Kidnapped or Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde though it's not so famous.

12. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. This one's an easy read--really easy--and as a story it's quite the thing though I think David is a bit young to appreciate it while Spencer would find it interesting.

Boys stuck shipwrecked on an island by themselves until they regress to the basest instincts and total depravity. Yes, that ought to resonate with my little neanderthals.

Lost Horizon by James Hilton13. Lost Horizon by James Hilton. A fictional adventure story of a secret land in the Himalayas--yes, this is the real story of Shangri-la. It's not particularly long but it's adventurous and will give them a taste of adult fiction without the "adult" part they don't need.

14. Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl. Written in 1950 about the real-life experience of Thor Heyerdahl and his crew who set out in a raft from South America to prove whether it was possible that the Polynesian people traveled across the ocean to settle their islands. Full of adventure and sea life it is guaranteed to be a hit with my future biologist.

15. King Solomon's Mines by Sir H. Rider Haggard. I haven't read this one either but it's based on the story of colonial explorer Frederick Courtney Selous and is the first in the African adventure genre. About a treasure hunter, Allan Quartermain, there is gold and bad guys and quests for glory--sounds appealing and I'm hoping that the plot carries as well to the page as it sounds.

16. The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling. I loved the Mowgli stories and even better I loved Rikki Tikki Tavi, the story of the mongoose in India. The beauty of Kipling in these stories is his turn of the language. The "Just So" stories are a great read too, "O Best Beloved" and I could read "The Elephant's Child" over and over again.

If the jungle isn't your thing you might try Captains Courageous about a rich boy who is stuck at sea and learns to be a man. Sounds promising doesn't it? It's short and full of manly stuff--just what my boys need.

Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin17. The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley. Another classic adventure story that I haven't actually read but I've heard it described as "Like Tarzan only more exciting and a better read." I'm not sure if this reflects more on Tarzan or on Zorro but either way I'd like to try it and see if it's adventurous enough to thrill boys used to The Force and He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

18. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells. This is kind of a surprising story because you expect the guy whose invisible to be the hero and to be a sympathetic character but no--he's not nice. I warn you now. But that doesn't mean the story isn't pretty good. I've wondered if War of the Worlds or The Time Machine are better reads, I haven't read them and this is my only experience with H.G. Wells.

19. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin. I haven't yet read this and am interested to hear from any one who has but it's a fantasy work that predates Potter by 30 years but with fewer pages and better writing. A young boy who leaves home to enter a world full of wizards and magic? Gosh that sounds familiar . . .

The Picture of Dorian Gray20. A Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. This is a short, easy read about young, handsome Dorian Gray whose portrait is painted by a friend. But this isn't just any portrait, Dorian soon learns that any evil acts he commits are magically recorded on the canvas rather than on his own face. As Dorian falls farther and farther into dark paths the picture transforms while he remains as beautiful as ever. A bit of the supernatural and a dose of morality at the same time. Perfect.

So there are my picks for our future--any suggestions of your own? I realize that this list is particularly heavy on the fiction and that there are wonderful non-fiction books as well so please, leave me your best reads. I'd love to hear them (and read them).

***

Just as a point of interest here are a few other book lists that might appeal if you found yourself agreeing with me on these that I've chosen:

National Geographic ranks the Extreme Classics: 100 Greatest Adventure Books Ever Written. I've only read a few of these but I'm printing it off for future reference.

Life After Potter: 10 Adventure Novels That Will Keep Youngsters Reading. Some seem pretty easy, I'd recommend these for those still in elementary school.

300 Recommended Books for Junior High Students. A pdf document that you can download or view to see what a junior high grade level for reading really means.

Sponsored by Manfred Mantis Play Sets for play equipment for the 21st century and Dimples and Dandelions with the Serena and Lily Bedding Collection for children.

66 comments:

Serena said...

"more like Bob Dylan drunk" Hahaha! I'll be laughing about that all day!

The only possible suggestion I'd have for you is Silas Marner. I think it's a great book, and I don't think there's too much romance in it for them.

I read Tarzan years ago--oh, goodness, it was at least 10 years ago now--and I enjoyed it. I'm not sure if I would enjoy it as much now, but I was a teenager then, so I think it bodes well for your boys.

Jenny86753oh9 said...

What a great list. I appreciate it, because the books that my boys end up wanting to read is books like 39 clues, Beast Quest, etc. They're good books, but not classics.

Erica said...

I loved Tom Sawyer and huckleberry finn when I was younger.

Do you have any suggestions for chapter books to read to a three year old, or is she too young for that yet?

Robin said...

Bookmarking this post and taking notes...

Itai just finished the Hebrew version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (or whatever the actual English title is) and is about to start on Robinson Crusoe (in English - yay!).

Hazel said...

Great list - as one would expect from an English graduate but - and I always send you a "but" on your book lists - where's Rosemary Sutcliffe? I'm not sure I can recommend a favourite but Legion of the Ninth would appeal, I think. Mr E has just looked over my shoulder and concurred (and he's into war stories and adventure stuff) so I'm not far wrong.
Note to Erica
I'd go for The Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton as a first chapter book (that is the confirmed opinion of my now-7-years-old grand-daughter) but, depending on her attention span I would have though 3 a bit too young yet.

Edi said...

1001 Arabian Nights...I picked up a copy of this used and it's a cool older version.

We haven't read all the stories in this large book - so I cannot vouch for the whole thing - but we really liked the Sinbad stories.

They are not what you'd call politically correct and in some cases they are creepy...don't want your kids nightmaring about being carried off by giant Rocs or being down in the Valley of Snakes.

My kids are (almost) 7 & 9.5 and they thoroughly enjoyed this book. Definitely a read-aloud for young kids (for the purpose of story monitoring).

Michemily said...

I find it interesting that you put "Picture of Dorian Gray" in the list. I read it about a year and a half ago and really enjoyed it, but I never thought, "Hey, this would be a good book for a boy." Interesting, though.

Alice Wills Gold said...

Abigail just got done with Hatchet...she really liked it.

I think I would add "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card I believe??...one of my all time fav's.

And for a little bit younger boys, I would add The Great Brain Series by John Fitzgerald.

Kacie said...

Great list! I've read many of these myself.

We had to read Lord of the Flies in 10th grade, and I'm still freaked out by what they did to that pig!

One of my favorite books is "Where the Red Fern Grows." My teacher read it to us in 4th grade, and I don't know about the vocab in it, but it's a touching story about a boy and his two hunting dogs.

I can't wait to read it to my son! I could start now, but he's not quite 3 months old and he doesn't seem to speak English yet. :)

Cathy ~ Tadpoles and Teacups said...

It is a great list--definitely not a "Disney-fied" collection of books. :)

Kara said...

LOVING these posts on books but they are making me think my Georgia public school education was just that... a Georgia public school education. I don't think I read many of these books at your boys' age. But I do remember reading with my parents and that developing into a love of reading later in life... great suggestions.

Flea said...

Thank you for the list! Once upon a time I read to my children ALL THE TIME. My boys loved it. My 14 year old son hit the same wall at about the same age and that summer I re-read the Narnian Chronicles to the boys, as well as Tarzan and some Sherlock Holmes. Tarzan is a fantastic book.

Then they discovered books on CD from the library and took the read alouds out of my hands. *sniff*

Mimi said...

Here's another good one...and it's a true story: "Lost on a Mountain in Maine" by Donn Fendler. The magazine I work for did a great interview with Fendler recently: http://www.bangormetro.com/media/Bangor-Metro/October-2008/Fendlers-Journey/

Laura Moffitt said...

Well I have some good adventure books but the main chacters are ladies and I don't think they would appeal to your boys. But maybe your daughter in a few years.

The Hero and The Crown and The Blue Sword.

The Blue Sword is a bit of an easier read I think but this is probably a read for a 12 to 13 year old.

jacjewelry said...

You've got a fantastic lineup - back in the day, I read both of Mark Twain books and loved them. Yes, the Grimm fairy tales are nothing like the cartoon version - although sometimes it's good for the kids to learn that not all fairy tales have a happy ending. :) 20,000 Leagues under the Sea is one of my favorites, although I thought the sequel Mysterious Island wasn't as good. We had a thick collection of Rudyard Kipling's stories, and they are all great. How funny - I was just asking my husband last night if he had ever read The Invisible Man! Terrific book - and perhaps what got me interested in science to begin with! As far as suggestions - how about Alexander Duma's novels - perhaps The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers? Another terrific book for younger children is Karlsson-on-the-Roof by a Swedish author Astrid Lindgren, but it's no longer in print, and it'll cost you a pretty penny.

Mom24 said...

Great idea, but here's my question. I read aloud to my youngest two at the same time, and I really don't see getting away from that. We all enjoy that special time snuggling up and being together listening to a special story after we've read picture books together. They are 8 (boy) and 6 (girl). We've don't pretty well, Jacob's still the age where he doesn't need books that are from a 'boy' perspective. We've been through the Judy Blume's, Beverly Cleary, Little House, Mr. Popper, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and many more. I can see in the future he would enjoy books such as these, but I'm not sure my daughter would. With having 4, at different ages and stages, how do you read aloud to them and yet personalize the books for each of them?

Tim Appleton (Applehead) said...

Thanks for the list, Kellen is at the same place. He is trying to read what I am reading now, which is ok, but he needs a broader, younger repertoire under his belt. Thanks.

corrie said...

Thank you for this post. I love to read and my daughter (12) does too. My boys - a little bit and I read to my 4 year old all the time. Just to get some idea...When do you read to them? At night? Together or separately? After all the homework and dinner and getting ready for bed...I am yawning through any book reading. But I seriously want to get the boys excoted about these awesome stories so hopefully their interest will peak to try something more than Geronimo Stilton and Magic Tree House. (which I love, but the 9 year old especially can move up to something more challenging).
Thanks again for the suggestions.

Anonymous said...

For non fiction...
"Into Thin Air" by John Krakaur (sp?) and "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson.

Michele said...

Gosh, I'm so not good with "boys'" books. Fantasy, science fiction, and the like just to not appeal to me. at. all. I love reading to my girls - all of the books I read as a child. I dread the day I need to read these "boy" kinds of books to my 19-month old boy. I like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, but beyond that nothing on your list appeals to me. And I love to read!

Maria Hart said...

I am almost finished with "Touching Spirit Bear" by Gary Paulsen, I am reading it with a 14-year-old I tutor in reading skills. I think you should definitely add "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card and even the 'Alvin Maker' series; "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer and "The Climb" by Anatoli Boukreev (two different perspectives of the same tragedy... and then you can watch the iMax film "Everest" which was filmed at the same time as the tragedy); "I Am David" by Anne Holm; and, "Holes" by Louis Sachar. Your list is great, I am going to print it out and save it for my son, though my girls love fantasy/adventure stories too! Thanks.

Maddy said...

Great recommendations. Curiously my husband read the Kon Tiki expedition a couple of years ago and loved it. I don't think he'd read a book ten years prior or subsequently come to think of it.
Cheers

Ni Yachen said...

Good list. I really liked Robinson Crusoe, Mysterious Island, Three Musketeers, etc. I also liked the Nick Adam Stories (Hemmingway), and Kim (Kippling). I noticed you didn't have any SciFi. I read a lot of Issac Asmoiv. His Steel Caves, Robots, and Foundation series are a lot of fun and have more meat then most SciFi. I also like Hitch Hiker's Guide series for silliness. Susan Cooper's Dark is Raising and Once an Future King are both good for King Aurthur rewrites.

Jenna Consolo said...

Well, this list should keep you busy! Great choices though. I'm a lot like you: not so much a down-and-dirty playing mom, but a big advocate of read aloud, even to my teens. My mom did that for us, and I loved it. You reminded me of some great books I'd forgotten to add to our list.

JennaG said...

I might add "The Count of Monte Cristo"--great books.

Neas Nuttiness said...

I'd like to re-read a number of these.
Now as to my son...if it isn't on the back of a serial box, he won't read it. It breaks my heart, but he is now 17, and I don't know that he will ever find pleasure in reading.

chelle said...

Wow that is an awesome list of books!

Becky said...

Great list! And I'm with you. Playing with my boys is a challenge for me (Jeff does a great job with that), but I read to them.

mj said...

Good list--I hadn't thought of some of these before, but I like the idea of introducing classic literature like Dickens, and reading aloud would be a great way to do it!

My 9-y-o recently picked up some Edgar Allen Poe from his class library and enjoyed the short stories. Which just goes to show that I definitely don't know what boys want to read because I would have thought those stories still a little too mature and scary for him, but I was wrong!

mj said...

Oh, and for non-fiction, David Macaulay books are good. My son loves The Way Things Work--funny and interesting.

Anji Gallanos said...

Great list. We are just finishing "The Edge Chronicles". My 8 yo loved Jules Verne..20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I am bookmarking this list for future reference. Jim Weiss also recorded some of these on CD..which can be nice for a follow through or for listening to at bedtime.

Thanks so much!!

jacjewelry said...

Thought of another classic German author - Hans Christian Andersen. My two favorite fairy tales of his are The Little Mermaid (despite the not-so-happy ending) and Thumbelina.

Alison Kerr said...

Great list. That should keep you busy for a LONG time. Personally I'd put in more non-fiction than just The Kontiki.

Darwin wrote a book about his trip on the Beagle, which is wonderful - much better written than The Origin of Species IMHO. There are books about Captain Cook. And what about a book on climbing Everest, or on visiting a rainforest country. "Guns, Germs and Steel" is fascinating and I love John Muir's books, particularly the first one which focuses on his childhood and adolescence. I could go on... there are true stories of war for a start. I do think boys need to have some realistic reading - stories based on fact and not just fantasy.

The above are all by male authors, which I find boys prefer.

Courtney said...

what a great list! I am actually going to forward it to my mom. I have a 13 year old brother who loves to read and believe he has read some of these books already. He is in a book club. how cute. My mom is a bookworm and hates TV. No cable in her home, two TVs (one that was $10 at a yard sale)...

Melissa said...

Thanks so much for this list! Being a girl, I am not always so good at picking out "boy" stories. I appreciate your insight and you have given me things to think about. Thanks again!

Carinne said...

I know they arent' the originals, but Ethan has just loved all the "kids classics". He's read a good portion of that list and then some. The versions he's read have been the Illistrated classics. While they don't introduce him to the language, they do get him into the great stories and they get him believing that there is more than Harry Potter. He loved Tom Sawyer, all the Jules Verne, Captain Courageous, Robinson Caruso, etc. He's really into American History and I've been meaning to read Johnny Tremain to him too.

Mandy said...

You know I love book post! I tried Treasure Island and it bombed at my house. The boys did NOT like it and I found myself bored as well. However, LOVE the Grim stories. There are a few I have not looked into that I will now, thanks!

Princess Heather said...

I have read all of the Wizard of Earthsea books several times over and I love them. I believe it started as a trilogy and then in recent years she wrote 2 additional books for the series.

Scribbit said...

Let's catch up with some of these comments (Andrew's taken time off this week so I haven't been around the computer much)

Serena--LOVE Silas Marner, good call on that one.

Erica--Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and Charlotte's Web are the first chapter books I tackle and both boys and girls like them. Pippi Longstocking is another great one as well as the Beverly Cleary books.

Robin--Robinson Crusoe is a good one. And to those who mentioned Dumas those are good choices too.

Hazel--those aren't books I've seen before so I'm thrilled to hear some recommendations. And Edi--I agree about Arabian Nights, a fun read.

Great suggestions, Mimi and Laura, thanks!

Gosh it's hard to keep up with all these--Mom 24: Good question--it's been tough. I tend to read to Lily separately and read to the boys together and Grace is on her own generally. I usually will alternate nights of reading, where one night it's Lily and the other it's the boys unless it's a Sunday afternoon where I have a lot of time and can do a session with both.

You might try some mysteries and other easy novels--Three Investigators, Marvelous Inventions of Alvin Ferdinand, The Great Brain series.

Mandy--Treasure Island is tougher than you think, there were some paragraphs I skipped because honestly? That sea jargon was over my head too. So much of it required a good knowledge of the dialect too. But luckily the basic story is pretty great, you might try a modern version of the story or listen together to a good CD copy of the book that would have the accents done properly and I imagine it would be much easier and more interesting.

Stephanie said...

Kellen is drooling over this list. Though he did say that he wasn't quite sure he wanted to ready Dracula! :)

Leigh said...

great list! I'll keep this for when the boys are much older... how about "The Education of Little Tree"? It's been a while since I've read that, but I think it would be a great book for older boys!

Chris said...

Loved The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula. How about Animal Farm?

Marie N. said...

All these are great! I just finished Portrait of Dorian Gray, I loved it.

We've enjoyed Robinson Crusoe in family read alouds too.

planetnomad said...

you realize that fairy tales were originally written for adults and of course our modern adaptations sanitize them immensely...the original red riding hood has her eaten by the wolf and not rescued, and there was one where the wicked stepmother was punished by being doomed to pass gas constantly.

i loved leguin's earthsea trilogy and i was just thinking of introducing them to my kids the other day. also, i assume your kids have read narnia--what about lewis' space trilogy. the first one is the most accessible, and then maybe the last--the middle one has some really long discourses, as i recall.

my boys have been using my computer to do homework while eating pbj sandwiches and now my shift key doesn't work. grr. sorry for the lack of caps and punctuation.

also don't forget dumas. elliot loves count of monte cristo and 3 musketeers and man in the iron mask.

MommyTime said...

There are a lot of great books here which I can't wait to read to my children. Do you know the fairy tales of George MacDonald? Fabulous. They may or may not all be beloved by your sons (they do seem to have some romance in them, as I recall), but they are wild and beautiful and witchy and all sorts of great things. The seven books in the Narnia series are sure to appeal as well, I'd think, especially the one about Prince Caspian.

fortyb4forty said...

We've already read a few on your list and now I have more titles to add to our list. Thanks for sharing!
I took a children's lit. course in college and started collecting books ages before having children, now I just need to pull them off of the shelves and start reading.

reprehriestless warillever said...

Our kids (all 6 and under) aren't quite ready for this list, but I am bookmarking it for future reference.

My husband started reading chapter books when our oldest was four. Our daughter was only two, but she listened in and actually followed the E.B. White books. They followed that with Doctor Dolittle, which she LOVED. Now that they have worked through the Little House series we are at a bit of a loss. It will probably be Narnia next...

Cynthia said...

I read some of those, but it has been a while! I look forward to reading them with my kids, too. We just started reading the Spiderwick Chronicles. They might be too simple for your boys (and you may have already read them), but they do appeal to both boys and girls.

Kelley said...

What a great list! Right now we are reading A Wind in the Door. We may finish the series or try something else for a change of pace. Even though my 12 year old son didn't want to listen when I started with Wrinkle in Time (thought he was too grown-yp for that) he was quickly sucked in and now is enjoying this 2nd in the series.

Reading to my kids may be hard on my voice, but it's so much better than anything on TV....why do I pay the cable bill???

Madeline said...

I'm so about to bookmark this list for future reference. There were a few new to me titles that looked pretty cool.

Stephanie and Co. said...

I loved Deathwatch by Robb White. An adventurous book about a hunter who becomes hunted with good morals about honesty and forgiveness. White also wrote "Secret Sea" another high adventure book that's lots of fun. Do you think Ray Bradbury is too old for them? Dandelion Wine and Fahrenheit 451 if not.

Fawn said...

I highly recommend "The December Rose" by Leon Garfield. It's about a young chimney sweep who overhears a criminal plot (while in a chimney). Falling out of the chimney into the room, he only very narrowly escapes having "a stop put to his birthdays". It's a very fun read with no romance and boys love to read about boys, right? Perhaps not quite as "adult" and serious as some of the others on the list.

For more sophisticated reading but with lots of humour, you could try James Herriot's books about being a country veterinarian in England.

And for some northern flavour, you could try some of James Houston's books. He wrote both children's and adult books and I personally very much enjoyed his memoir "Confessions of an Igloo Dweller", though I can't remember at the moment if it would be appealing to a 12-year-old boy.

dpenguin said...

"Earthsea" by LeGuin is a whole series :) They made a movie of it, but they mixed it all up in the movie so don't judge the books by the movie!!

Agreeing with Robin McKinley's "Blue Sword" and sequels; and Orson Scott Card's "Ender's Game"!

Julie Holt said...

When I was a kid, my parents read aloud to us at the dinner table--fun! A couple suggestions I might add--for girls as well as boys--Where the Red Fern Grows and the Chronicles of Narnia series!

Damselfly said...

I'll have to refer to this list when Fly is a little older!

Heffalump said...

The Blue Sword is my favorite book!
The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper is wonderful, as well.
We have really enjoyed the Gregor Overlander series (not old enough to be a classic yet, but a great series), and the Maximum Ride books.
We read mostly fiction, so I am sorry I don't have a good list of non-fiction books for you. I do think that Gary Paulsen has written some non-fiction books. Those might be good to check out.

Mary@notbefore7 said...

There are so many I have not read, but I did read Hatchet out loud to my fifth grade class back in the day and we all LOVED it! Great list.

My son's only 2, so I'll have to "star" this post :)

Twinsmom said...

Has your son tried the Artemus Fowl series? My 14 y/o son loves them. It's about a fairie world underground that interacts with a boy genius (series started out when he was 10 or 11) who was first their nemesis and now is a friend. Very cool high tech weaponry and technology. Also, I would highly recommend "My Side of the Mountain" (has 3 books in the series, but the first is the best). A young boy runs away from home and tries to become self-sufficient in the nearby mountains in upstate New York. He lives in a hollow tree and raises a peregrine falcon. I remember this from 6th grade, and my kids loved it to. Strikes me as something a 12-year-old adventurous Alaskan boy would like too!

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

I really liked Danny, Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl, and The Giggler Treatment, by Roddy Doyle, but both are for younger readers than yours. Maybe a good choice for Erica's boys.

We loved Hatchet when we read it, and the follow ups as well.

Fawn said...

Oooh, I was just perusing my "classics" section because your post made me think I should really reread the Grimm Fairy Tales. Roald Dahl wrote a wonderful book for adults (which I hope you are familiar with, because it is wonderful): The Wonderful Tale of Henry Sugar. Henry Sugar's story is, of course, fairly long and will likely take a few nights to read through (if read aloud), but I believe the others are mostly good one-sitting stories. I especially love "The Hitchhiker".

Sherlock Holmes might also entertain.

I know you mentioned Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, but one of my favourite Mark Twain stories, and not very long, is "The Facts Concerning The Recent Carnival Of Crime In Connecticut". Some fun imagery, dialect, and the seed for a good discussion afterward.

Fawn said...

Oops, that was supposed to be "The Wonderful Tale of Henry Sugar and Six More."

Smita said...

My first visit to your blog, and I must say I am bowled over!! Loved your posts on books and reading. Especially this one. I have a 2-year old son who loves stories and who loves being read to! I am always looking for good books to read to him, and also good stories (both classics and traditional ones). His current favorite is 'Ali baba and the forty thieves'. I think I should introduce him to Enid Blyton too, what do you say? :-)

Thank you for this wonderful list of books.

Love,
Smita (India)

BlapherMJ said...

What an awesome list. I'll be giving this to my sister for my nephew. Thanks!

Annie said...

Love the list, and thanks for the links! If your boys like greek mythology, and even if they don't, The Lightning Thief and the others in the series by Rick Riordan are fun and exciting reads.

Just Another Hofeling said...

I will be keeping this list for my oldest boy. He is an avid reader and I can only imagine the joy he will have in reading half of these.Thanks

Seeker said...

Just a comment about the "Tarzan" books, I read them thinking it would be great for teenagers. I was shocked at how racist they were. After reading that book I finally understood how Hitler came to power. If people read and believed all this junk about the genetic superiority of British upperclass, it's no wonder his ideas could gain such force.